WILMINGTON -- After missing last the last three games due to stitches above his right eye, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said he hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday night against the Islanders. The stitches, of which there were approximately 40, will be removed before the game, and Thornton said he just needs medical clearance and the OK from Claude Julien. 

"I think so, but I'm not 100 percent [sure]," Thornton said Tuesday of the possibility of him returning. 

There the Bruins were, sitting on a cool 3-0 lead halfway through Monday night’s contest at Madison Square Garden, and on the way was most certainly another column about playoff matchups and the Bruins needing to keep pushing until both the Flyers and Capitals were looking up at them in the standings.

The Bruins blew a three-goal lead Monday night at Madison Square Garden, falling victim to two late goals within 51 seconds to drop a 5-3 decision to the Rangers,

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton has had a career year this season, setting highs with nine goals and 18 assists in a campaign that seems to argue with him strictly being called an enforcer. Now, those efforts — and how far he’s come — have been recognized, at least locally. The Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has chosen Thornton as the Bruins’ candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

[Updated: 11:00 p.m.] If the those on hand for Saturday’s matinee between the Bruins and Thrashers didn’t appear to be on the edge of their seats at the Garden, it’s because they weren’t.

Just minutes after clinching their second Northeast crown in three seasons, Bruins winger Brad Marchand made it clear the team still has a significant goal to accomplish before the playoffs - finishing first in the East. 

Daniel Paille scored an unassisted short-handed goal and Michael Ryder scored on a penalty shot with 7:29 left in regulation to lead the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Thrashers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. The win clinches the Northeast Division for the Bruins and assures them of no lower than the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs and home-ice advantage in the first round. With 99 points, the Bruins trail first-place Philadelphia by just three points in the East. 

After scoring 21 goals and adding 19 assists in 72 games, Bruins winger Brad Marchand was honored as the 2010-11 Bruins "Seventh Player Award" given to the Bruins player who goes above and beyond expectations.

Technically still a rookie, the 22-year-old Marchand has earned the trust of his coaching staff by playing the left wing on the team's second line, playing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. 

After missing most of the season with a shoulder injury, defenseman Shane Hnidy has been cleared by coach Claude Julien to return to action today against the Thrashers in a matinee at TD Garden.

Hnidy suffered the injury during camp with the Coyotes in September and spent the first half of the season rehabbing it before signing as a free agent with the Bruins at the end of February. 

Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday that there was "nothing to report" after Zdeno Chara was absent from the game 17:14 of the second period to 3:05 of the third period against the Maple Leafs, but eyebrows were once again raised when the captain did not take the ice in Friday's practice at TD Garden.

After the skate, Julien reassured reporters that there isn't any reason for concern with the captain, and that he will be in the lineup when the B's host the Thrashers at TD Garden Saturday.